Album Review

Superb EP From Retro-Inspired Country Singer-Songwriter

Whitney Rose - South Texas Suite

Crossing paths with the Raul Malo for 2015’s Heartbreaker of the Year appears to have been predestination. Rose’s retro sensibility first showed itself on her debut album, but with Malo providing amplification, Heartbreaker showed off the ways in which classic country and pop sounds can be reborn into new music. And unlike artists who flirt with the past only to heed the siren call of the country charts (I’m looking at you Sara Evans), the sounds that fire Rose’s imagination aren’t a passing fancy. She even offers Brennen Lee’s “Analog” as a thesis statement, with its jazzy style and relaxed tempo lauding the simpler, slower times of a pre-digital world. That said, Rose is also perfectly at home with the advances women have made, declaring her freedom of footwear in “My Boots” as a marker of independence, and lending the spotlight to Redd Volkert for a stuttering guitar solo that certainly would have made Merle Haggard smile.

Her adopted Austin offers both the Tex-Mex flair (courtesy of Michael Guerra’s accordion) and social inspiration for “Three Minute Love Affair.” Rose romanticizes the brief assignation of a spin around the dance floor with a vocal that’s lost in the possibilities of a partner’s embrace. A similar romanticism fuels the crooning on Teri Joyce’s “Bluebonnets For My Baby,” with Erik Hokkanen adding wonderful fiddle lines throughout. As a Canadian ex-pat, Rose was pulled to Texas by country music and the culture that fueled it, making it something more personally fundamental than music that happened to be on the radio. She imagines a hill country pedigree in “Lookin’ Back on Luckenbach,” but it’s the strength of her emigrant’s choice that is the real draw. The EP closes with a rousing band jam that hung so far off the end of “My Boots” that it was given its own track. It’s too short, just like the EP, but with a second Malo-produced album on the way, this will have to hold you. [©2017 Hyperbolium]